Allan Jacobsen recalls near-fatal car crash

Allan Jacobsen nearly died in a car crash at the outset of his career. Picture: SNS

Allan Jacobsen nearly died in a car crash at the outset of his career. Picture: SNS

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AS he prepares to enter retirement from professional rugby, Allan “Chunk” Jacobsen today looked back on a near-death experience as a teenager which changed his life and provided the impetus to chase every dream thereafter.

In a sporting context, Jacobsen certainly has made the most of his potential, with 65 Scotland caps and 285 appearances earned for his only club, Edinburgh.

It could all have been so different, he acknowledges, if the fates hadn’t looked so kindly on him the night he was involved in a car crash and was catapulted through the windscreen before bouncing back into his seat.

“A piece of glass cut me half an inch from my jugular vein,” recalled Jacobsen. “Maybe it was something that shaped me into deciding to make the most of my life after that.”

Around that time, too, Jacobsen was part of an emerging force in youth rugby and, in 1996, he helped Preston Lodge capture the Scottish Youth Cup with victory over Langholm at Burnbrae, Glasgow.

Again he cites that experience as crucial in his development.

“Playing with those boys I grew up with is what got me into rugby. Coming from Preston Lodge, rightly or wrongly at that time, it was felt you had to work harder to get into the representative set up.

“We had such a good season and along with a team-mate, David Sumner, we got noticed by Edinburgh and then the Scotland age-group teams. There’s no doubt whatsoever playing alongside such good players in PL Under-18s helped me.”

Still as a teenager, Jacobsen was to make his bow for the Preston Lodge first team alongside lifelong friend and fellow debutant Greg Kinross in an away victory over Peebles.

Contract offers were beginning to filter through, including one from Bath, who had him down for a week’s trial.

However, two months after his 19th birthday, Jacobsen took the field for first love Edinburgh against the touring Australian provincial side, ACT Brumbies, ironically as a substitute for the Capital outfit’s current interim coach, Stevie Scott.

A link was established that would never be broken and, over the years, Jacobsen has seen many highs in club colours and most notably two victories over Toulouse in the Heineken European Cup.

In taking his leave, though, Jacobsen does admit to some concern about the state of the scrum in which he has been a fixture. The International Board released data this week showing that more Six Nations scrums now result in penalties or free kicks than produce first-phase possession ripe for attacking, and Jacobsen, who has experienced many a heated scrum, said: “The scrum is like everything in professional rugby in that it has evolved.

“Everybody is trying to find an extra edge and the way the scrum goes can affect the rest of the game. People talk about the breakdown and the speed of the ball for attacking. All of that comes from how good a scrum is. If you are getting pushed even ten centimetres that affects the next breakdown.

“The scrum was important a long time ago but not as important as it is now. However, scrums have just got out of control even if I they can be tweaked back.

“There is so much going on it is hard for one man to look at it in an instant and see what four props are all doing at the same time. My solution? Why can’t the touch judges do more? Can they not come in from the side and go closer to the scrums on the opposite side from the referee?”

With a qualification in plumbing, Jacobsen plans to set up a business during which he will take a step back from rugby.

But at the same time he said it is impossible to envisage not being part of the oval ball game and – intriguingly – refused to rule out a return to grassroots at the Preston Lodge club which propelled him on to the Test stage and where a video is known to exist showing Chunk ploughing through would-be tacklers as a member of the mini-section.

It was around this time, too that he acquired the nickname that was to stand the test of time. “It came from a character in a film called “The Goonies” and we were on a bus when I was told it fitted me as well.”

As a departing gesture Jacobsen has adopted the sobriquet for his new Twitter feed @chunkjacobsen.

It is surely a measure of popularity that even before a single tweet he had amassed 507 followers – and counting!